InFamous: Second Son Review

Posted on April 02, 2014 by Joe Modzeleski

With the PlayStation 4 launch games thoroughly consumed and Xbox One's blockbuster Titanfall currently available, InFamous: Second Son finds itself with a lot to answer for. As the first major exclusive for Sony's new platform post-launch, many fans have eagerly awaited Second Son as a title to finally break the monotony of the launch titles.

So now that it's here what sort of product is it? Is InFamous: Second Son that killer next-generation game we've been waiting for?

Playing as Delsin, an angsty young-adult trying to find his place, we are thrown into a world where superhumans are a reality, and being one is essentially illegal. Exposed by activation of a mysterious gene, Conduits have control over a wide variety of supernatural powers. Ranging from cliches like electricity and fire to unconventional powers based around concrete and paper, the creativity at play with the Conduit's abilities is intruiging and inspiring. Within the first ten minutes we discover that Delsin is a Conduit himself, one with the ability to absorb powers from other Conduits.

The plot and lore helps set up a situation that throws the player into a mission to hunt down and collect powers from other Conduits. Taking place in a startingly beautiful rendition of Seattle, Second Son grants players an enjoyable sandbox that only becomes more amusing as your abilities grow. Visually Second Son makes a strong statement for the power of the PlayStation 4 hardware. Lighting and weather effects make the alleys and streets of Seattle feel alive, with beautiful skyboxes providing a great backdrop while you parade around the city. Combined with the lighting system are a series of jaw-dropping particle effects. Shortly into the game Delsin receives the power of Neon, which fires off in awe-inspiring trails of pink and purple. Smoke trails, gunfire, and powerful effects bounce around the environments providing a sense of depth alongside the visual flair. Simply put, InFamous: Second Son is a game that could not have been accomplished on last-gen hardware, and it looks damn good.

But the visuals are where any indication of being "next-gen" fade away.

For all intents and purposes, Second Son is a fairly rudimentary game. While the art assets and production are top-notch and beyond anything Sucker Punch has produced in the past, the gameplay itself follows a very traditional pattern. The city of Seattle is broken up into districts, each one occupied by the oppressive D.U.P., an organization that is hunting down and incarcerating Conduits. Just like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, the player must hunt down a "main base" in each district, destroying it to open up and reveal a series of sidequests and objectives. As you complete these objectives D.U.P. control of the district diminishes, leading up to a final showdown to run them out of the territory. Within the context of the narrative it makes perfect sense and provides an enjoyable vehicle for the player to utilize their powers as they explore the game. It's over the course of the entire game that things become tired. Every single region is home to the exact same side jobs. Destroying cameras, military checkpoints, and flying drones is really exciting in your first two or three districts. It's when you realize that these few objectives are the same side missions you'll be repeating through the entire game that things become worrisome.

powerful effects bounce around the environments

Thankfully the main story path is full of fun and interesting missions revolving around a unique cast of characters. Even better is the constantly increasing set of powers and abilities the player has at their command. Running down your eighth D.U.P. base is a lot more exciting when you're knocking folks down with suppressive Neon powers, or blowing them apart with Smoke Missiles. As you complete objectives and collect shards hidden on drones flying around the map you will be able to purchase and unlock additional powers and abilities via a simple skill-tree. Aside from a few morality-based abilities, you can unlock everything in a single playthrough, making the choices of where you spend your shards less threatening of ruining your game.

That brings us to the most surprisingly archaic aspect of Second Son altogether. A juvenile morality system gives the player the option to choose between different options at various points in the game. These choices are startlingly black-and-white, with no real middle ground. Each choice is presented as a decision between being reasonable and being a complete trash of a human. Unlike games like Mass Effect or Fallout: New Vegas, never are you given a situation where a morally bad decision is necessary for the greater good or the sake of survival. You never get the chance to play as someone who sometimes has to make hard decisions and live with the regret of them. You simply choose whether or not you're going to be a massive dick. Even worse is that none of these choices really matter in the storyline until the very last one, which determines which ending you will get. None of the choices leading up play into the ending you'll see, merely that last choice you make during the finale. Combine that with the fact that these choices build up your Karma which unlocks morality-specific abilities. The game frequently punishes you for straying from whichever moral path you started on by denying you special abilities or slowing down your progress towards new abilities. You can't be a bit of both without making the game worse, there is no reason to not just pick good or evil and stick it through.

a constant source of new mechanics to keep the gameplay from growing stale

Perhaps more disheartening is that certain scenes in the game imply that Delsin is certainly capable of doing some terrible things, but to him it's a bit of acting out. Like a troubled teen, Delsin never seems like the type of person to live without regret. The evil ending for the story, however, is just downright terrible. Following the evil path we are given a character that is devoid of heart and completely unlikable in any regard.

It's a confusing design decision that left me completely surprised as I played through a second time testing the morality waters. It's kind of ironic that the good and bad moral paths almost represent the good and bad ways to play the game. In almost every way the game is more enjoyable if you follow the heroic path, and it kind of stiffles the idea of experimentation.

Narrative disappointments aside, Second Son is a great game. The mechanics are smooth and the graphics are gorgeous. The expanding powers you receive provide a constant source of new mechanics to keep the gameplay from growing stale. As repetitive as the side-missions are, the satisfaction of clearing a district and the rewards it grants can't be denied. While InFamous isn't the unbelievable next-gen game that will define the next 7 years, it's an enjoyable and worthwhile investment for early PlayStation 4 owners. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better single-player game already available on the system.

Haptic gives InFamous: Second Son a 4 out of 5.

#infamous second son, #Review, #ps4, #Playstation 4

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